One year on, sombre events mark war in Ukraine

24 February 2023

As buildings continue to crumble, and people’s lives remain at constant risk, cities across Europe are rallying behind Ukraine one year after Russia’s invasion.

For months, municipalities have been hosting millions of Ukrainian refugees and sending life-saving aid to the war-torn country. Today, Eurocities members are marking the occasion with symbolic actions to tell Ukrainians that they’re not alone and that the show of solidarity will continue for as long as needed.

Candlelight vigils, exhibits, lit up buildings: in cities, the mood is sombre for this difficult milestone. In the past year, thousands of Ukrainians have lost their lives to the war and some eight million have become refugees.

Still, messages of encouragement are rippling across a Eurocities video, with mayors praising Ukraine as “an inspiration to the world.” “We see you,” “we stand by you,” “we love you,” “we deeply admire the courage and perseverance that you continue to show,” “stay strong,” say dozens of city leaders from Madrid to Stockholm, from Athens to Leipzig.

And with those words comes the hope that Ukrainians will soon be able to envision a new future for themselves.

What cities are doing today

Candles will shine in the dark during the ‘Light for Ukraine’ candlelight vigil at Helsinki’s cathedral, from 16:00 to 20:00. The church’s bells will ring before participants observe a minute of silence.

Helsinki, Vantaa and Espoo will also announce how many electricity generators they have collected for  Ukraine, as part of the ‘Generators of Hope’ campaign. In parallel, Helsinki is donating UNICEF €100,000 that will be used for humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

The Polish and Ukrainian flag tied together in Lublin, to mark one year of war in Ukraine
The Polish and Ukrainian flag tied together in Lublin. Photo: City of Lublin

In Poland, the Ukrainian, Polish and European Union anthems will fill the air during a noon concert at Lublin’s townhall.

Lublin’s support for the neighbouring country will be the centrepiece of a photo exhibit running until the end of March. The ‘Lublin Helps Ukraine’ show will highlight the city’s relief actions by portraying the people who made crucial assistance possible.

Meanwhile at the Crown Tribunal, Lublin will honour the companies that have helped Ukrainian refugees and sent aid to their country by awarding them with ‘Lublin to the Heroes’ medals.

London will build up to 600 new homes to host Ukrainian and Afghan refugees who are homeless or living in unsuitable temporary accommodation, Mayor Sadiq Khan announced today. In the morning, Khan will attend a commemorative mass at the Ukrainian Catholic Church.

The London Eye ferry wheel lit up in the colours of the Ukrainian flag
The London Eye ferry wheel lit up in the colours of the Ukrainian flag. ©️City of London

Yellow and blue lights – the colours of the Ukrainian flag – will beam in the evening on nine landmarks in London: the City Hall, Trafalgar Square, London Eye, Piccadilly Circus, Outernet, London Eye, Southbank Centre, National Theatre and OXO tower.

Across the continent, other cities have similar initiatives in store: in Budapest, the fairy tale-like Fishermen’s Bastion monument will be lit up in the colours of Ukraine’s flag. In Madrid, both the Palacio de Cibeles palace and Fuente de Cibeles fountain will be covered in blue and yellow light this evening.

In Germany’s Hannover, the Ukrainian flag will be hoisted at the city hall, followed by a speech by Mayor Belit Onay and a minute of silence. Meanwhile, peace rallies will take place across the city, capped by a commemoration for victims in Ukraine, Iran, Turkey and Syria. In the evening, the Church f Hannover will host a benefit concert for Ukraine.

In England’s Wolverhampton, the Ukrainian community will be in the spotlight at an event featuring a speech by Mayor Sandra Samuels and the raising of the Ukrainian flag in the local St. Peter’s Square.

In Germany, Dusseldorf is inviting the local population to look inward: at noon, Mayor Stephan Keller will lead a minute of silence at the city hall.

Top picture credit: ©️Manuchi


Daniela Berretta Eurocities Writer